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Cleveland TSA officer provides CPR to unconscious passenger

Thursday, June 6, 2019
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer Olen Cook

Lead Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer Olen Cook was having a regular day on the checkpoint at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport when another officer requested leadership assistance. Arriving at the travel document checking podium, he saw a distraught father cradling his unconscious teenage son on the floor.

“My first thought was, ‘Oh no, what’s going on?’,” Cook recalled. “My next thought was to ensure the incident was an actual medical emergency and not a distraction intended to prevent officers from performing their duties.”

Cook alerted Supervisor Brian Polenz to the situation and rushed to the passenger’s side to assist. Polenz notified the manager on duty and called the Cleveland Police Department and local emergency response personnel for assistance.

When Polenz returned to the checkpoint, he saw that Cook – a retired military medic – had taken charge of the situation and retrieved the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) machine, which he had recently received training on as a member of TSA Cleveland’s Incident Response Team. With assistance from the passenger’s father and a nurse who was in the queue, Cook set up the AED machine and began CPR. The passenger appeared to have suffered a seizure and was not responding to questions.

“You could see the young man’s father and even the nurse were concerned, but not Cook,” said Polenz. “Throughout the entire emergency situation, he remained in charge, composed, and projected self-confidence and authority.”

After several tense moments of Cook and Polenz monitoring the AED machine, emergency personnel arrived on the scene and took over. While they tended to the passenger, Cook engaged with the young man’s father and the nurse to gather relevant information and documented the timeline of the incident.

Emergency personnel helped the passenger regain consciousness and transferred him to a local hospital.

“In my eight years with TSA, I have never been more impressed and proud of a coworker than I was with Olen Cook on this day,” said Polenz. “He displayed high standards of professional conduct, pride, and honor while projecting a positive image to the crowd of passengers looking on. I have no doubt that Cook helped save this young man’s life.”